“Fury” is a 2014 movie set in Germany in April 1945. It’s a “guts and all” approach to the subject, with prisoners being shot, displaced refugees, brutal last-ditch battles and close-quarters killing. In some ways, the level of gore represented is almost overwhelming – even for those who have seen their fair share of war movies. But it’s also fairly accurate.
Fury is the name of a fictional Sherman tank, crewed by four men who have known each other since the war in Africa, back in 1942. This means they were together for three years, and they make mention of the fact that few crews had stayed together that long. Most got broken up.
They were part of the 2nd Armoured Division “Hell on Wheels,” which was created by then Colonel George S. Patton in July 1940. It was to become one of the most storied US divisions in the entire war, with combat spanning three years, two continents and ten countries.
Seeing combat over that period of time can do strange things to people, and the crew of Fury are certainly strange. Antisocial, or bordering on insane is more like it. But it’s only logical that they would become that way after firing that many shells, seeing that many dead people, and burying so many comrades – when there was anything to bury anyway.
The depictions of the horrors of warfare are clearly quite accurate. But who can say for sure if the attitude of the men is exactly as it would have been. Certainly, from all the autobiographies I have read, people swore a lot less back then. I even recall an Australian veteran of the Kokoda campaign being asked what he thought of the Kokoda movie – he said it was pretty good, but that they didn’t swear as much.
Our modern age is certainly used to violence, uncouth speech, swearing and that sort of thing, so it takes a lot to shock our audience. The way people used to speak would now seem quaint – so I feel that the director chose to shock and horrify rather than go for absolute historical accuracy. They certainly achieved their intended aim, and the characters in the tank really come to life. You start to understand them, too.
So how about the battles, then?
In the movie, there are a number of battles depicted, and by and large they are fairly accurate. There are parts where Fury and other tank crews participate in an assault on Nazi fortified positions, and come under return fire from artillery pieces – the dreaded 88 millimetre cannon. This was intense. The artillery screams past in a blur, and when it hits it throws up earth in a massive cone of violence. Should it hit one of the Shermans, there really is no hope of survival. The poor bastard will explode, shrapnel tearing about the interior, setting off other shells, and in all likelihood burning the crew to death.
This video, of the US 3rd Army taking the city of Cologne, highlights the absolute horrors of tank warfare in the cramped German cities, where resistance was fanatical and suicidal – but still cost so many lives, just a few weeks from the war’s end.
To give you an idea of how seriously dead you were if an 88 hit you: its penetrating power was 110 millimetres of armour at 500m range. That’s eleven centimetres. Nearly six inches of solid steel! The Sherman had 63mm armour. So…the 88 could punch through almost twice as much armour as the Sherman actually had.
So if that thing hits you, it’s goodbye.
Unfortunately for the crews of the Shermans, the Tiger tanks had the 88mm cannon as their main armament.